Luka Bloom » Media Information
LUKA BLOOM - Turf
With Turf, Luka Bloom has quite literally
made a solo album; almost without exception, the sounds that you hear are his voice and guitar.
Although the concept is very back-to-basics, the album is as full of sound as if Luka
were backed by a band. That's because, for ten days in January, he wasn't
simply strumming a guitar in front of a mike, but playing in a large studio
at Windmill Lane in Dublin meant for recording live bands. (In fact, the
Rolling Stones had just left.) Engineers Paul Ashe-Browne and Brian Masterson
strung mikes around the room, on the ceiling, and along the floor as if they
were putting colored lights on a Christmas tree. What they captured was the
sound of Luka playing in the room - a big, beautiful sound that defies most
preconceptions about what one man and a guitar can produce.
"I never wanted "Turf" to be a live album, with clapping and whistling, etc.,"
Luka explains. "Yet there was a simple fact haunting me: that the sound
generated with my songs on stage was what worked most successfully. And I
wanted this record totally to reflect that feeling, whereas previous records
of mine just suggested it."
"So, how to create this record without the live baggage? Brian, Paul and I
created a totally live environment, with a stage, P.A. and lights. But I
recorded in solitude, because the 'audience' is each individual who buys the
record. The sound is the big live sound, but the performances are intimate.
It's a one-on-one show. Stadium folk music for the bedroom."
However, one night at Windmill was different. Luka invited in an audience
comprised of serious fans he'd contacted in anticipation of the recording.
They had waited in the December rain to buy tickets for his shows at
Whelan's in Dublin; this was Luka's way of saying thanks - and adding a
certain edge and unpredictability to the proceedings.
As Luka recalls, "After five days we brought in an audience, and I did this
one-in-one show with 130 people, asking them not to respond with applause,
but to simply be there! We captured the atmosphere and used four songs from
that night on the record."
A week after the Windmill sessions were completed, Luka and engineer
Ashe-Browne took their equipment on the road, to one of Luka's favorite
clubs, the Tivoli in Utrecht, Holland. There they recorded two shows,
not so much to preserve Luka's performances this time, but to capture the
audience's participation. The enthusiastic Dutch fans provided a spontaneous
sing-along to "The Fertile Rock",
which became, on the record, the song's striking introduction.
Luka unveiled most of the songs that would comprise "Turf" in a
series of Dublin shows last summer and honed them throughout the fall touring
Europe. "The Fertile Rock", however, had appeared in a different
version earlier last year as part of The
Sound Of Stone, Artists For Mullaghmore, an Irish album raising funds for, and
promoting the cause of, the Burren Action Group. Although the song could
be about the Australian outback, the American Southwest, or the Alaskan wilderness,
"The Fertile Rock" protests the Irish government's plans to build an
interpretive center in the heart of the ecologically fragile Burren, a world-renowned
haven for rare flora carved out of the rocky land by an ancient glacier. On
"Turf", Luka also touches on the issue of Ireland's itinerant traveler
population, which he first dealt with in the moody and evocative video of
"Rescue Mission" from Riverside, the story of a traveler boy's
encounter with a Dublin girl. "Freedom Song", in part, recounts
the story of traveler activist Nan Joyce.
"I was in America during the Clinton campaign," Luka explains, "and
was fascinated by the number of women being elected to office. And I discovered a
great book called "I Dreamed a World", which profiles, in essays and
photos, the lives of great African-American women. I sensed a similarity between
the struggle and dignity of these women and the same struggle and dignity of
Irish women, especially women in the traveling community, often victims of both
racism and sexism. Hence, "Freedom Song".
At the heart of "Turf" is "Diamond Mountain",
Luka's most recent composition, which had its first performance
in front of his fans that night in Windmill Lane. Diamond Mountain is an actual
place in Connemara, where Luka and photographer Frank Ockenfels went to
shoot the album art, but it also represents the spirit of a place - a feeling and
a memory of home.
"Irish people understand displacement," Luka says, "We are
indeed scattered everywhere. There is much displacement in "Turf".
There is longing, and also belonging. I feel a sense of belonging in "Diamond
Mountain". It's my turf."
The only other voice on "Turf" comes from Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh,
singer for the acclaimed Irish band Altan, who harmonizes with Luka on "Sunny
Sailor Boy", a song Mike Scott of the Waterboys gave Luka that has already
become a highlight of Luka's shows. (The Dutch fans had sung along to that one too, but
somehow Mairead's voice alone rather magically captured the mood of the track.)
The album credits end with a line in Irish: "Do mo mhaimi, i mo smaointe go
Deo." Luka translates: "To my mother, in my thoughts forever."
He adds, "Though she passed on in September 1992, my mother's spirit is
very much alive in "Turf". She is the great inspiration."